The New Rules of Engagement: Digitization

Yvonne Sell and Georg Vielmetter recently wrote Leadership 2030, a new book outlining how 6 powerful trends are impacting life as we know it. They identified these 6 megatrends as Globalization 2.0, Environmental Crisis, Demographic Change, Digitization, Individualization and Technology Convergence.

In this series of blog posts, Monick Evans of the Hay Group will cover each of these trends in turn and share her thoughts on how they impact engagement, and what they might mean for us as professionals as well as for us as employees.  The first in the series covered Individualization.  Today she discusses Digitization.

 

Digital Help or Digital Hindrance?

With the powerful megatrend Digitization already upon us: what does it means for you and your job and for the way you manage others?

 

Digital Help

You can do anything you want in the virtual world.  There are apps for pretty much everything, insomniacs can find people to talk to any time of the night and you can get advice whenever you ask for it (and even when you don’t if you look at Twitter!). So all this digital stuff should be making our lives easier right?

In many ways yes it should.

Digitization is all about the blurred boundaries between our work and personal lives as a result of technology. It’s about being “switched on 24/7” and it means many of us can work flexibly from anywhere at any time, which helps us find the work/life balance that works for us. Living 2 ½ hours away from my office means I regularly work from home just to stay sane!

In the workplace, Digitization can definitely be a huge advantage; advances in smartphones, apps, Facebook and Twitter for example are a great way to stay connected to our clients and our colleagues across timezones in a simple, engaging and fast way. They keep us agile and flexible, we can react in an instant to the latest bit of news.

 

Digital Hindrance

So what’s the downside? Well if like me, you weren’t born into a world of Clouds, I-phones, Lync, Messenger and Twitter, you’re not a Digital Native. My kids will be (they can already work the Sky TV box better than I can). That means there’s a whole heap of training we need to make sure that we use technology to save time in our jobs, rather than waste time.

And what if you feel you should constantly be “wired” so you can respond immediately to your client’s late night emails? Aren’t you at risk of getting stressed or burnt out? And if you only communicate with your manager on email, how will they spot the signs and be able to help you?

Then there’s the problem of being discreet. How do we know what’s appropriate for us to share online? The world of social media is so quick that it’s easy to act on impulse, but by doing that we could be damaging our company’s brand – or even our client’s brand – just by a click of a button.

 

Digital Ready

If you work in a role in HR, then these problems are soon going to be your problems. What training do people need and how can you keep them up to speed with new technologies and digital trends? How can you prevent employee burn out? And how can you best engage your people around your brand so that they want to protect rather than damage it?

Research on this new megatrend shows that people’s expectations are changing about how they use technology at work and that if companies want to keep their talent motivated, they’ll need to adapt fast because:

  • Younger workers – or Digital Natives – want to be connected all the time. Removing a Smartphone from someone when they turn up for work is like removing an arm. (Interestingly, a major retailer in the UK that banned mobile phones on the shopfloor is now piloting the use of them again to keep people motivated)
  • People will demand that their company supports them with different devices and technical support to keep them working, especially if employees are travelling for their jobs
  • A pressure to always be online could lead to stress and burnout for some, that managers still need to look out for and manage
  • Employees can easily find out online how their salaries compare to other firms (and then they can easily apply for another job if they want to)
  • People want to work when they want to work – that might be in the middle of the night, whereas your manager wants to speak to you when the sun’s still out. Managers will need to measure ‘outputs’ differently and look at performance rather than just hours
  • We’re all human and we still need some personal contact. Managers can’t rely on virtual communications and meetings – we still want to see people face-to-face

 

Digital Balance

So stop and have a think about your own job for a moment. How do these changes to the workplace affect you or the people you manage? How can you get the best out of using technology and mitigate the worst?

Try answering a few questions to see how well you think you’re doing amidst Digitization:

Yes / No
Digital Help?
Is technology helping you save time in your job?
Does technology help you stay in touch more easily with your clients or colleagues?
Do you feel technology gives you more flexibility to work from anywhere at anytime?
Do you have the technical support you need to keep those devices working at all times?
Are you using technology to showcase how great your company’s product or ideas are?
Digital Hindrance?
Be honest, are you slightly addicted to checking your messages? (even if someone is talking to you)
Does your Smartphone go wherever you go (including to bed)?
Have you ever had an online ‘rant’ about something or someone then instantly regretted it?
Does your manager expect you to answer emails 24/7? (and do you expect the same from your direct reports or colleagues?)
Have you ever felt totally exhausted and at risk of burnout because you never really switch off from using technology?

 

How did you get on? If you generally answered “Yes” to more Help than Hindrance, then you’ve probably found a great way of using technology in your life.

But if you answered “No” to any of these questions, maybe now’s the time to put that device down and have a proper conversation in the real world rather than the virtual world. Given that when I see my kids playing, they’re often copying Mummy on the phone sending messages and moaning when a webpage won’t load fast enough, then maybe it’s time I did just that….

See you next time, I’m off to meet a real friend for a real drink and a real chat rather than a virtual one, it’s much more fun.

 

How well do you think people in your organization are adapting to the digitization trend? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

Photo Credit

About the Author: Monick Evans is an Associate Director at global management consultancy Hay Group. With 20 years experience in organizational research, HR and change consulting, Monick has worked with some of the world’s best known multinational companies to deliver leading edge employee engagement programmes. Monick works closely with key stakeholders, including CEOs, Executive Teams, HR, OD and Communications professionals to help align their employee survey programmes with business strategy. The topics she is discussing in this series of blog posts can also be found in the Hay Group report The new rules of engagement.

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1 Comment

Ewa Lewandowska

I really like the mention about the retailer who banned mobile phones, only to return to mobile as an engagement tool. I think it illustrates our evolving approach to mobile really well. Firstly some employers might have responded with fear and scepticism, later on accepting the unprecedented rise of mobile and including it in HR practices. Today, many Fortune 500 enterprises trusted large scale mobile solutions for agile performance management and engagement.

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